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Ordinary Mike Miller's Unordinary First Day

Ordinary Mike Miller’s Unordinary First Day Mike Miller considered himself to be very average. His grades were average, his friends were average, he played average soccer. In fact, one could go so far as to say that Mike’s whole life was average, and he was perfectly alright with that. Mike had never been a very imaginative person, he took things for what they were. The way he saw it: he wasn’t starving, or sick, and though his family was not free of the general dysfunction that seemed to plague every familial unit, they genuinely cared about each other. All in all, Mike had a good life, and he wouldn’t have changed anything about it. Of course, as these things usually do, Mike’s life did change. Rather suddenly and without warning. It all started on a Monday. Mike’s day had started ordinarily enough. He woke to the heinous beeping of his alarm clock, or as he sometimes called it “The Wailing of the Damned”, ate toast for breakfast, walked to school, and tried to stay awake though algebra. He failed. Mike had a ham sandwich for lunch and bullshitted with his buddies, then he endured Marcell’s history class—which had somehow managed to become even more strange and awkward since his sister had become his TA—and went to soccer practice before heading for home. He grabbed the mail on the way in. His mother was often so busy with dinner after work that she forgot it in the black box beside their driveway, and Mike had just kind of gotten in the habit of grabbing it for her. But he didn’t bother looking through it; there was rarely anything for him anyway. “I’m home,” he called, throwing the mail onto the dining room table before heading up to his room to play some video games. His bedroom was small, and slightly cluttered, with clothes and bric-a-brac strewn around, but it was home. Mike plopped onto his desk chair and booted up his aging laptop—he weren’t no console pleb. Except that just as he was about to start up the new game that everyone was playing, his mom called to him: “Miiike,” her voice drifted up to him, in that very particular tone that made him tense involuntarily. Oh no. This was about that one time two years ago when he’d been ten feet away from some guys smoking pot, wasn’t it? He gulped. “Yeah?” He shouted back over his shoulder. “Come here please.” Uh oh. She only said that when she was serious. Mike stood from his desk, walking slowly towards the door as his stomach began to drop in slow motion. “Coming,” he said, moving through the hall and down the stairs, to where his mom was waiting. She held a thick piece of paper and an envelope that from what he could see had had a red, wax seal before she’d opened it. Mike didn’t recognize it. “What’s this?” His mom handed him the paper, her hand shaking. At first, Mike wasn’t sure what he was looking at. “Dear Michael Miller,” it began in immaculate type. “Every year, we at St. Adelaide’s School for the Gifted like to thank the community of Ede Valley for providing us a home by running a lottery of all eligible students in the area to win a full scholarship, and this year, your name was drawn!” What? Mike’s mind blanked for a second. Of course, he knew about St. Adelaide’s, everyone did. It was one of the best private schools in the country. Only the best and the brightest were allowed to pass through its prodigious halls. Mike was nowhere near extraordinary; he was about as interesting as floral wallpaper. “First, let us just say congratulations!” The letter continued. “And that we would be honored to offer you a place among our students at the start of the next semester.” Under that was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about the “wonderful opportunities” the school offered, etc. etc., but Mike’s eyes began to glaze over. “Mike...” his mother sputtered, unable to get anything else out. “What?” He asked. “Mike!” She beamed, squealing and hugging him. Well, it was clear that she was happy about this, but Mike wasn’t quite sure. It wasn’t the letter or the school itself that was suspect. He’d heard stories—more like legends, really—about kids getting lucky and going on to be superstars or billionaires or whatever. But why Mike? Out of all of the kids they could have chosen, why him? He was just lucky, he guessed. Yet the whole prospect worried him. It wasn’t as if it would be that far away from home, but it would be entirely new. New room, new classes, new classmates. Mike hadn’t really had to make new friends in a long time. Most of the kids at the high school he’d known since Kindergarten. Could he really fit in with the talented and wealthy student body St. Adelaide’s boasted? Still, he had never imagined really making something of his life, but now that he was thinking about it... And plus, his mom was so happy. That poor woman was working her ass off to give him and Cindy a good life; she needed something to be happy about. And it wouldn’t be so bad. He’d still be in town, or close to it, at least, and he could go home most weekends. So they prepared. His mom helped him with the forms—and the frustration that came with them—they filled several shopping carts full of Target bags, and for a little while, Mike’s stuff took over the living room. This did not help his nerves, because every time he went downstairs he had to pass the pile of bags and boxed Ikea furniture. “Wow,” his older sister Cindy commented as she paused while making her way to the kitchen from the lair that was her bedroom. “So you’re really going to St. Richalaide’s, huh?” “God that was always a stupid nickname.” Mike shook his head. “Who came up with it, anyway?” Shrugging, Cindy chuckled. “Some mythical 5th grader that we will probably never be deemed worthy to meet.” They both laughed. “I’m gonna miss you, little bro,” she said, putting an arm around his shoulder and holding him in a headlock as she gave him a good noogie. Mike, much to his chagrin, was still shorter than her. “That was sudden,” he said, pulling away. “Believe me, it’s purely selfish,” Cindy scoffed, moving over to peer into one of the Target bags. “If you’re gone, I’m gonna have to entertain mom.” Christmas came and went, and as the date of the new semester drew closer, Mike began to actively dread it. He knew that this was a good opportunity for him, whatever that meant, and he still believed that he would have fun. But still. He didn’t know why, but he was completely terrified. Before he knew it, the appointed move-in date was here. The three of them packed up his mom’s mini-van, and Cindy waved as Mike and their mom drove off towards St. Adelaide’s. Mike stared back at the old house. True, it looked just like all of the other houses on the block, but it had been home to him. It was fine, though. He shook himself. It’d only be gone for a few days, and then he’d be home for the weekend, right? At the top of the large hill, almost a cliff it was so steep, the school loomed over them as the car got closer and closer. Soon, they were driving up the hill itself, around and around again until Mike felt a little sick. One more corner, and the grey stone of the school gazed down upon him like some ancient gargoyle. “The best and brightest students have entered through my doors,” it seemed to say. “What makes you worthy?” “Didn’t it used to be an insane asylum or something like that?” Mike asked, his voice small before its grandeur. “The school, I mean.” “Yep.” His mom nodded. She had obsessively researched St. Adelaide’s in the week after he’d gotten his letter, so much that he could quiz her on anything about it. “Up until the fifties, when it was finally shut down. It was really sad, actually. They just let all of the patients go. No help or anything, just out onto the street. I think I read somewhere that they briefly repurposed it as a government institution of some kind, but I’m not sure.” “Wow,” was all Mike could get out as they passed through the rot-iron gate and into the visitor’s parking lot. That was quite a history. Large trees drooped over the pavement and grounds, and gave the whole place a grim, shaded air. It was oddly hushed as he hopped out of the car, the sound of the door slamming echoing throughout the grounds. He wasn’t the only new kid, of course. It was a new semester, and there were several other families unloading things from cars and vans while a dark-haired woman with a nametag directed them to their destinations from the head of the lot. Yet it was all so quiet. Like they were in a giant library. There was a weight on this place, something Mike couldn’t quite describe. But he shook off the feeling. It was probably just his own nerves. The lady in charge waved and approached them after a minute, got them all set up with a cart, and gave them directions to Dunsany Hall, the dorm where he’d be staying. “The dorms are co-ed,” the lady explained to his mom as she handed her a map, “but each floor is divided into two wings, with the girls’ rooms on one side and the boys’ on the other, with a common room in the middle. If you have any questions, feel free to let me or any of the dorm supervisors know.” They thanked her, and began to trundle the cart down the sidewalk and through the trees. Both he and his mom were silent, and as she sighed audibly, Mike wondered what she was thinking. Was she as nervous as he was? After a minute of taking in the somewhat grey scenery, Dunsany Hall emerged from the shadows. It looked more like an old country manor than a dorm with large, looming windows, and a steep roof. The interior wasn’t much less ominous. It was clearly made for an older time. There were places where the wires for the lights were visible, and the stone walls made the whole place very dark and cold, despite the obvious attempt at the opposite by the brightly-patterned carpet. The next hour went by in a blur of unpacking. The rooms, he had to admit, were somewhat unconventional. He got his own bedroom, but he did have to share a bathroom with one roommate in a mini “suite” of sorts, as they called it. But Mike simply shrugged. Meh, rich kids had it good. His roommate was not there, but he didn’t have much of an opportunity to think about it, because before he could so much as blink, the room was moved into and it was time for his mom to leave. Mike didn’t really want her to go. “Well, I’ll see you this weekend,” his mom said. “Call me if you need anything.” “Yeah, I will.” “Oh...” Seeing his expression, she smiled, and hugged him, tightly. “I’m so proud of you. You’re so brave.” “Thanks, mom,” he mumbled, a little embarrassed. But he hugged her back anyway. He hoped she would be okay with just Cindy in the house. His sister could be a little... distant, sometimes. “I love you.” “Love you too.” And then she was gone, and Mike was alone in his new room. He stared at it for a solid minute, at all of his familiar stuff in a strange place, unsure of just what to do with himself. He was alone, he was responsible for his own person. The thought terrified him.

He shook himself. He had to do something or he’d go crazy. But transfer orientation wasn’t for about two hours yet. His computer sat temptingly on the small, wooden desk in the corner. No, that was what his sister did; isolate herself from everyone. Mike had to go talk to somebody. The common room was just down the hall, maybe some people would be there. But unfortunately, his plans were quickly interrupted as he opened his door just in time to see someone sliding into the suite. Literally. On heelys. Mike noticed several things about the stranger in quick succession. One: he was very pale, like he hadn’t been properly outside in a long time. Two: he was half-humming, half-singing a vaguely familiar song under his breath, and he wasn’t half bad. Three: his hair was white. Not like that “so blond it’s almost white” color. No, legitimately white. He must have dyed it, because his eyebrows were a normal, brown color, but who in their right mind would want their hair to be that white? “A different drummer but the same old—oh.” He abruptly stopped as he turned and saw Mike nearly frozen in the doorway. After barely managing to avoid scooting directly into the wall on his heelys, the guy tilted his head to the side and smiled. “You must be the new kid, right?” He stuck out the long sleeve of his sweatshirt, into which he’d cut a hole for his thumb. “I’m Doug Bailey. Looks like we’re roommates. And I was just starting to enjoy the quiet solitude of an empty suite.” Mike hesitated before shaking his hand. Doug seemed cool enough, but there was something undeniably uncanny about him that Mike couldn’t quite place his finger on. “Mike... Miller,” he replied. “Uh...” his gaze drifted vaguely upwards to Doug’s hair, which in addition to being spotlight white seemed to be actively rebelling against gravity, sticking up in all sorts of unnatural directions. Doug briefly tried to follow his gaze up to the ceiling. “What? Oh,” he chuckled. “The hair. Would you believe it grows out of my head this color?” Was he being sarcastic? He was smiling, but Mike couldn’t really tell. “Uh-uh.” He finally shook his head. “Yeah, I wouldn’t either.” Just what the hell did that mean? Mike shook his head, unable to come up with a response. “Anyway,” Doug waved it off, “transfer orientation isn’t for like, eh, a couple of hours, right? Why don’t I show you around?” “Okay.” Mike shrugged. It was better than sitting around here feeling sorry for himself. “Thanks.” Doug opened the heavy, wooden door and led the way out into the dark, cavernous hallway. “Don’t mention it. I’ve been here for forever anyway.” He flicked his right wrist idly. It seemed to be a habit of his; Mike had seen him doing it earlier. “I think they do it on purpose, actually.” “Do what?”

“Pair up us old hats with the newbies,” Doug said from over his shoulder, always a step ahead as he drifted back and forth across the hallway on his nigh-invisible skateboard. “I think they’re hoping we’ll ‘bond’ or something.” “Yeah...” Mike trailed off as they approached the common room. It was surprisingly cozy now that he got a closer look at it, with a couple of soft chairs and small tables. There was a big TV hanging from the wall and a cabinet full of old board games; Mike thought he even spotted a few Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks through the glass. But the best part was that unlike the rest of the building, it was actually light. A skylight was cut out of the ceiling and the weak sun shone down through it. “So this is the common room,” Doug gestured, “Where all of the weirdos with nothing better to do congregate.” He seemed to be telling the truth; the room was pretty quiet, and only a few people were milling about. “Oh hey, speaking of which,” he turned and smiled coyly as he caught sight of an Asian girl in the corner with very long, multi-colored pigtails that were almost bigger than her head. The girl looked up from her phone, unamused. “Jilli, this is Mike Miller, the new kid,” he gestured, approaching her. “Mike, this is Jilli Nakajima.” Now he bowed deeply, as if presenting a queen. “She’s from Japan.” “Uh...” Mike stuttered. She was very pretty. Crap, he didn’t know Japanese. The only knowledge he had of that weebo mecca were from the anime that he didn’t like to admit how fond of he was. “Uh, kon’nichiwa, Nakajima-san.” He bowed a little. “Oh!” She grinned broadly. “Ohiyo, bakayarou-kun! Doug leaned over to Mike. “You know, I don’t watch many Japanese Cartoons, but I think she just called you a dumbass.” “Damn straight I did.” Jilli’s face dropped from its cheerful façade. Now she looked thoroughly unamused. “You speak English.” Mike felt like an idiot. “Of course I do,” she smirked a little, rolling her eyes. “I go to an American boarding school. But it’s alright, Mi-kun, at least you got the honorifics right.” Mike shook his head. “And now you’re never going to let me forget, are you?” “Nope.” She grinned. “Actually, come to think of it, I also spent the first few years of my life here, in America, I mean, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that. Though you’d be surprised...” “What do you mean?” “Jilli’s a former idol,” Doug explained. She bristled. “I’m only on hiatus,” she insisted through clenched teeth. “Any day now, my manager’s gonna pick me up and—” “After that stunt you pulled?” Doug laughed. “I don’t think so. Face it, Jil, you’re stuck here just like the rest of us.” “Wait, what happened?” Mike looked back and forth between the two, feeling utterly lost. Jilli took a deep breath and closed her eyes, composing herself. “I may have had a slight nervous breakdown, in the middle of a concert.” “She threw a chair at someone’s head,” Doug confirmed, grinning broadly. “But she was a little bitch who had it coming!” Jilli snarled, before shaking her head vigorously, nearly smacking Mike in the face with her enormous pigtails. “And that’s how I got sent here.” “You gotta understand,” Doug interjected. “Most people don’t get big scholarships to go here like you did.” Mike vaguely wondered how he knew that. “You don’t go to St. Adelaide’s, you get sent here.” “It’s like juvie for kids who are too rich and/or talented to go to juvie.” Jilli nodded. “But that doesn’t matter. The point is, I’m getting out of here soon, unlike this loser.” She pointed to Doug, narrowing her eyes. “Keep dreaming,” Doug laughed as he turned towards the door. “Anyway, that’s the common room, so...” Jilli hopped down from the windowsill she had been perching on. “Oh, are you showing him around? I’m coming along too.” “Whoa whoa, who said you could come?” Rolling her eyes, Jilli turned to Mike. “I did. And between you and me,” she faux whispered, “he’s kind of an asshole. And I can’t have him corrupting my innocent Mi-kun so easily.” She wrapped her arms around his head. Mike suddenly felt like the child caught in the middle of a very dysfunctional marriage. “I am sixteen,” he said when she let him go. “I know dear, I know.” She turned back to Doug. “And besides, you’ve done a pretty shit job of it so far. You haven’t even finished the common room yet, and you’re all set to leave.” “What are you talking about?” Doug laughed. “This is the common room. He’s seen it. What else is there—“

“You haven’t introduced everyone yet,” she flipped her head towards the other side of the room, where a boy and girl were sitting next to each other, reading out of the same book. They hadn’t even looked up once. Doug gave Jilli an indescribable face. “What, do you want me to introduce him to the entire flipping student body?” “No, just the interesting ones. That’s Sonia,” she gestured to the girl, a willowy, blonde thing that seemed to draw all of the limited light in the room. “She is the nicest person you will ever meet, and the guy next to her is Gil. He’s a little...” But she didn’t have time to finish. The crazy gold contact, the long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail—with a ribbon, no less—and the obnoxiously ornate cosplay coat said it all. “Not all there?” Mike offered politely. “Fuckin’ weird,” said Doug at the same time. “I was going to say eccentric, but those work too.” Jilli shrugged. “He’s not an asshole or anything—“ “In your opinion,” Doug added. “He’s just got a really bad case of Chuunibyou.” Doug blinked. “Your what hurts?” Chuunibyou...” Mike racked his brain. “Isn’t that like when someone roleplays so hard that they uh, actually start to believe it or something?” Nodding, Jilli glanced over to make sure they weren’t listening and turned away. “Yeah, it’s really common back in Japan. They call it ‘Middle School Syndrome.’” “What’s his wizard roleplay name again?” Doug snorted. “Gil... Gild...” “That’s Gilveidan the All-Knowing to you,” said a deep voice from directly behind them. Mike turned, only to come face to face with Gil, who was actually quite tall and slightly intimidating. “And the term is ‘Warlock’, thank you very much. This is one of the new apprentices, I take it?” He turned to Mike, who gulped. The golden contact in his right eye caught the sunlight at just the right angle to make it glow, and Mike was suddenly stuck with the bizarre idea that it wasn’t a contact at all. But the moment passed as Gil nodded. “You seem to possess potential. Prey you do not disappoint me.” “Oh, Gil, don’t scare the new boy,” Sonia laughed through a thick, Russian accent as she hopped up to join them. “It’s his first day.” “You are right, as usual. My apologies.” He dipped his head to Mike. “Allow me to present my Dark Mistress, the Lady Sonia Valentina Borozovna.” Doug sniggered uncontrollably behind them, and even Sonia smiled a little, despite herself. Gil shot Doug a glare as cold as ice, which abruptly shut him up. “Is... that your real name?” Mike asked. Da, is traditional Russian name.” She smiled broadly, revealing white, if slightly crooked teeth. It was a nice smile. “It’s very long.” Sonia laughed, surprisingly loud and deep for someone of her small frame. “Oh that is nothing. There are much longer names back in Rossiya. Would you care to join us?” She offered. “Gil is introducing me to... H... P. Lovecraft. Is very good writer. Uses very big words.” Mike opened his mouth to answer, but Doug quickly cut him off. “We-hell, would you look at the time? There’s only an hour-and-a-half before the transfer meeting and we’ve still got a loooot of school to see.” He practically began to drag Mike and Jilli away from the common room. Once they were well out of earshot, Doug allowed himself to laugh. “‘Dark Mistress’, oh my god. If that’s not the cringiest thing you’ve ever heard.” "Oh, he's not so bad," Jilli insisted, though she giggled a little too. “He’s just—“ “Weird.” “Delusional,” Mike and Doug supplied simultaneously. “Okay, yeah, maybe,” Jilli finally conceded. “I think Sonia’s about the only one who can stand him.” “Though she’s not necessarily all there herself,” Doug shrugged. Mike glanced back and forth between the two. “What do you mean? She seemed pretty normal to me.” “She’s...” Jilli began. “Air-headed in this oddly specific way.” Seeing his confused expression, Doug stepped in, or in his case, slid. “Sometimes she’ll just stare at a spot and nod and shit like someone’s talking to her.” “We think it may be schizophrenia, but no one’s brave enough to ask her.” Jilli shrugged. “Yeah,” Doug began sniggering again. “We’re all afraid Gil’ll put a curse on us or something.” “So, are they like, a thing, or...?” Mike began. Doug snorted. “Who knows?” “Um, everyone who isn’t completely self-absorbed,” Jilli said. “They’re not ‘together’, but they’re together.” She kept walking. Which left Doug and Mike to blink in confusion, the former turning towards the latter. “What does that even mean?” By this point, they had reached the stairs. They were broad, with a wooden banister running all the way to the bottom. Without hesitation, Doug slid down the banister like he’d done it a million times. This whole school was beginning to seem like his personal playground. Jilli rolled her eyes. Mike couldn’t help thinking that Gil and Sonia weren’t the only weird ones in this joint. “Anyway,” Doug called as he waited for Mike and Jilli to catch up. “There’s not much else to see in the dorm. Campbell’s a lot cooler, it’s got a pool and everything.” “Just my luck to get stuck in the crappy dorm,” Mike sighed. “So where are we going next, oh all-knowing tour guide?” Jilli asked, hands on her hips. Doug waggled his head back and forth in thought. “Uh, probably Bloch. That’s where most everything is.” He led the way out of the dorm, and down the shady, snow-covered path. Mike continued to be amazed at just how little sunlight made it through the thick, drooping leaves of the trees above. It was also exceptionally quiet; there was a certain weight to the grounds that seemed to permeate everything. Mike shivered through his coat, his breath hanging heavy in the air. Ahead of them, the Bloch building was a sullen cat glowering at them from the shadows. God, what was with Mike today? Not everything was all doom and gloom! He shook himself, and followed Doug and Jilli into the belly of the beast. No, stop that. “This was one of the original buildings back when this place was an asylum.” Doug’s voice came out small against the weight of the old foyer. “That explains the lack of heat,” Mike mumbled. “Yeah, well most of our classes are here, so you better get used to it.” Jilli smiled rather sarcastically, before following Doug off to the left. A few students milled about the hallways, alone or in small groups, but as with the rest of the place, they were all oddly quiet. “So that’s the cafeteria.” Doug pointed to the right, through a pair of large doors. “The food’s fuckin’ gross, but your taste buds will get poisoned eventually, and then it doesn’t matter anymore. Oh, and morning meetings are mandatory, so don’t think you can get out of breakfast.” “Really?” Mike frowned. “Why?” “They say it’s to make sure we get a ‘good start to our day’, and take attendance, but it’s really so that the Director can keep an eye on us and make her speeches and stuff.” Jilli broke in “Who’s the Director?” Mike asked. “Only the biggest mystery in St. Adelaide’s,” Doug grinned broadly, waving his hands like he was telling a ghost story. “She’s basically the principle, but no one’s ever seen her; she only talks over the speakers, and uses this crazy-ass voice changer. No one’s really sure if she’s even a ‘she’ at all.” Mike started to think that Doug was pulling his leg. This sounded too weird to be legitimate. “And no one questions this?” “With the results this school pulls out?” Jilli scoffed. “It could be run by a monkey and no one would give a damn.” “But there’s been plenty of crazy rumors over the years.” Doug was now gliding backwards down the hallway. “Everything from aliens to rogue AI.” “Speaking of the strange and bizarre,” Jilli cut in, “look where we are, Doug.” The two boys turned to the door that she was smugly pointing at. The gold plaque screwed onto it read: “The Blackwood Library”. “Oh hell no.” Doug shook his head fiercely. “We are not going in there. I’ve had enough crazy for one day.” “But the tour wouldn’t be complete without a tour of our studying facilities,” Jilli grinned, before turning to Mike to add: “Not that anyone actually studies or anything. Especially in there.” Mike was just plain curious now. “I’d... I’d like to see the library.” He had to admit, it was kind of funny pissing Doug off. “I’m not going to win here, am I?” Doug sighed. “Alright then, let’s go.” Jilli pushed open the old, worn door and Mike had to struggle not to cough as a nigh impenetrable cloud of dust met his nose. “Wow, you’re right,” he said. “No one does go in here.” The room beyond was lofty and cavernous, with a wraparound balcony in addition to the main floor. But most of all, it was filled with books. They were everywhere, spilling from the shelves, stacked in piles feet high on every available surface. And they weren’t even fun books either, mostly old tomes full of facts dryer than a saltine cracker. “Oh, there’s someone here.” Jilli smiled ominously. Doug leaned over to Mike. “Yeah, she’s the reason no one else is.” “Jilli? Is that you?” A voice asked from the depths of the gloom. “Yep. And I brought some friends.” “F-f-friends?” Mike thought he caught a glimpse of someone from behind what he thought must be the librarian’s desk underneath all of the books and papers, but they let out a high-pitched squeak and hid behind a stack taller than Mike as soon as their eyes met. “Are any of them cute boys?” “Well, there’s Doug,” Jilli made a face. “What’s that supposed to mean?” “But the new kid isn’t bad,” she continued, ignoring Doug completely. Mike blushed. There was a pause. “A new kid, you say?” The head reappeared from behind the teetering column of tomes. “Is break really almost over already?” “I’m afraid so.” “Oh, and I just got started in on my reading, too...” the girl, and Mike could see now that the person was a girl, grabbed a book from the pile and began meandering towards them. “I’ve been reading about death recently,” she muttered to her book, not even bothering to glance up at them, owl-like, until she was only a few inches away. “Do you know that almost every culture has its own, utterly unique interpretation of why people die? It’s just fascinating.” She grinned broadly, shifting her gaze between the three while wiggling the fingers of her free hands excitedly. “And you must be the new boy.” She turned to Mike, licking her lips. “Abigail Hodge, student librarian.” She stuck out her hand. “But you’re cute, so you can call me Abby if you want.” “Uh... Mike Miller,” said Mike, quite at a loss for words. “A pleasure.” She stared at him for a moment longer, unblinking. Mike could see why people avoided the library. “You’re quite... ordinary, aren’t you?” she finally asked. “Uh, sorry what?” “Oh, you just look very... average,” Abigail smiled, tilting her head to the side. “We don’t get many like that around here. You could say that you’re very... special, in that regard.” “Thanks?” Mike took a small, singular step backwards. In the second Abigail looked down to her book again, Doug began making furious gestures to Jilli over Mike’s head. Jilli sighed. “Well, it’s been nice talking to you, Abby, but we still have to show him the rest of the school, so...” “Oh! Right, of course.” Abigail began to turn back to the desk, and the others made to leave. “It was nice meeting you, Mr. Ordinary.” The last word seemed to echo for a moment before Doug shut the door behind them. He let out a big puff of air. “Why did we go into her lair again?” “I don’t know. I guess ‘cuz I feel kind of bad for her,” Jilli replied. “No one ever talks to her, and she’s been here even longer than we have.” “Whatever, let’s keep going.” Doug muttered. “Maybe that’ll shake the creep off of me.” The rest of the tour was pretty uneventful. Doug and Jilli kept an ongoing commentary as they walked through a few classrooms and some of the other school facilities. The gym was very large, and the weight room was impressive, but they didn’t stay in either for very long. Neither Jilli nor Doug were really “athletic types,” and the only reason Mike had kept up with soccer so long was because that’s what all his friends did. Soon, it seemed as if the tour was coming to an end, but one last door caught Doug’s eye. “Aw, let’s stop in the shop and see Victor.” “And get sawdust in my hair?” Jilli crinkled her nose. “Do you know how long it takes to wash that out?” “Hey, I put up with the library so now you owe me.” Doug smirked. “It’s a little thing called jolly cooperation, but you probably haven’t heard of it.” “Don’t be an asshole,” she grimaced, looking about ready to punch him. “But fine, we’ll go. But I’m blaming you when I have to use three rounds of shampoo.” “Well excuse me, Princess,” Doug laughed, before turning and grunting slightly as he heaved the metal door open. Beyond, the room was dark, save for a single work light towards the back, where Mike could see someone hunched over a tarp. Just as Doug raised his hand in greeting, the person flipped a switch, and whatever was under the tarp started vibrating furiously as sparks flew and the work light began to flicker. “Yes!” The figure laughed. “It’s alive, it’s alive, it’s—“ With one more spark and a giant pop, all his machinery turned off and the thing stopped moving. “—oh, crap.” “Yo, Victor!” Doug called, giggling like a maniac. “Another failure?” He began walking towards the work light, and Mike and Jilli followed behind. Victor was tall, and broad-shouldered. He was one of those people who seemed a little bigger than he should be, for he remained slightly hunched over, as if trying to make himself smaller. Pulling the goggles from his face, he blinked through the darkness until catching a glimpse of white hair. After turning on the other lights, he relaxed. “Oh, hi Doug. Unfortunately, yes. I think it’s a problem with the parts, but I’ll have to do some troubleshooting,” he began muttering to himself, looking back towards the tarp. It took him a solid minute to notice that Doug was not alone. “Who...?” He started, before Doug interrupted him. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot. You know Jilli.” She waved. “And this is Mike. He’s new, so we’re showing him around.” “Ah, hello.” Victor stuck out a hand. “Victor West. I... I-I build robots. Yes. Robots.” Mike shook it. “So you’re not reanimating the dead?” He asked, looking over at the tarp. “What? No, no, no, no, no.” He shook his head fiercely. “No, this is just machinery.” Victor banged an elbow against the tarp to demonstrate how it banged. “Nope, nothing human about it at all, hahaha.” Right. Mike didn’t believe him for a second. But by now he was so desensitized to the weird that he almost didn’t care. Almost. “So uh Doug,” Victor turned, changing the subject. “You didn’t happen to stop by the library, did you?” “Yeah, but only because Princess here insisted.” He rolled his eyes, pointing to Jilli. “Ran into Ms. Foureyes and everything.” “Abigail?” Victor’s voice cracked a little as he perked up. “She didn’t happen to, uh, mention me, did she?” Eyes widening, Doug stared at Victor with his mouth hanging open, horrified. “Dude,” he said. “Really?” Victor blinked, looking helpless. Doug sighed and reached up to put a hand on the taller man’s shoulder. “I’ll be back later to discuss this ‘development’.” “It is almost four,” Mike added, somewhat unhelpfully. “The transfer meeting starts then.” “Right. We’re gonna help Mike find his ‘look at our school isn’t it amazing’ meeting and then I’ll be back. Alone—” he added as Jilli opened her mouth. “We need to have a serious talk about this, alright?” Victor nodded, his cheeks long since turned a bright pink. “It was nice to meet you.” Mike waved as they turned to leave, before jumping a little as the thing under the tarp twitched once more. Victor waved back, seeming oddly small in the big room, despite his stature. The rest of the day passed by in a blur of confusion. Doug and Jilli dropped him off at the auditorium like two proud parents before turning around and immediately beginning to bicker. And then there was the transfer meeting itself, which was a bunch of smiling peppy people shouting “Ra ra ra!” just as Doug had said. Admittingly, however, Mike couldn’t tell you much else about it, as he might have zoned out on his phone halfway through. Dinner afterwards was shitty cafeteria food—yum!—and then Mike went back to the dorm. There were several other “activities” for the new students, but Mike thought he would barf if he saw one more fake smile. Though that may have been the cold pizza talking. Dunsany was quiet when he got back, though not quite as much as it had been that afternoon. Most of the other students were arriving now, and there were several people in the common room, though none that Mike recognized. He passed by it, back to the suite. Doug’s room was dark, must have still been out with Victor or something, and Mike spent a quiet evening on his laptop watching stupid sitcoms. As he lay in bed that night, Mike’s thoughts drifted to the events of the day as thoughts are wont to do. He wondered whether everyone in this school was weird, or if Jilli and Doug just happened to know all of them. In a strange way, Mike didn’t mind their various eccentricities, he just wanted to know more about them. He had known that the atmosphere would be different here—rich kids and all—but this was something else. Chuunibyo and weirdos, Russians and mad inventors, it made Mike feel very... ordinary. He had always considered himself as such, but now he was wondering if it just made him boring. Then he remembered something Abigail had said: here, he was the unusual one. An unusual person to compliment a highly unusual day. Mike laughed to himself. He was still really nervous, and little scared, yet at the same time, there was a tingling of excitement. It was as if he was waiting for something, though he didn’t know just what. Well, whatever it was, it would come. For now, he had to sleep, because odds were that his second day was going to be even weirder.

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